A former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, has come under criticisms from Nigerians over his attack against a Daily Trust reporter in Cross River State during a press briefing.
Mr Fani-Kayode on Tuesday, after the backlash, also took to Twitter to defend his action.
The incident, which happened on Thursday, was captured in a viral video showing Mr Fani-Kayode pouring invectives on the reporter, Eyo Charles.
Mr Fani-Kayode, who was visibly angry, told the reporter he was “foolish” for asking him who “bankrolled” his tour of projects in Cross River and other states in the South-south.
The briefing, moderated by Governor Ben Ayade’s spokesperson, Christian Ita, was meant for the former minister to talk to the reporters about his tour.
It was attended by reporters from Vanguard, Punch, NAN, AIT, and other media houses.
“I could see from your face before you got here, how stupid you are. Don’t ever talk to me like that,” Mr Fani-Kayode kept yelling at the reporter who was still standing and apologising — “I am sorry, sir.”
“Don’t judge me by your own standards,” the former minister kept saying.
“I have been in politics since 1990. I am not one of those politicians that you think will just come…. I was taken, I have been locked up how many times by this government. I have been prosecuted, unlike most of these politicians you follow for brown envelopes!
“Don’t ever judge me by that standard. I spend, I don’t take and I am not a poor man, I have never been and will never be.”
The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) immediately condemned Mr Fani-Kayode’s attack as being “gangster-like” and demanded a retraction from the former minister.
The NUJ President, Chris Isiguzo, said in a statement on Tuesday that the reporter was only asking “a simple question”.
Also, a civic group, Socio-Economic Rights And Accountability Project (SERAP), condemned the attack on the Daily Trust reporter.
“We condemn reported intimidation, harassment and attack on @daily_trust journalist by a former Minister of Aviation Femi Fani-Kayode,” SERAP said on Twitter via its handle @SERAPNigeria.
“Mr Fani-Kayode should publicly apologise to the journalist. No one should ever call any journalist ‘stupid’ simply for doing their job,” the group added.
Several Nigerians have taken to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites to attack the former minister over the incident.
A Facebook user, Olamide Ogunmilua, said to the former minister via the social media site: “I love you sir, but I am highly dissatisfied and disappointed in you.
“How can a qualified lawyer and former minister of aviation react in such unmannered fashion? Sir, you are an elder statesman. People are looking up to you as a role model. It was embarrassing watching you act that way. You went overboard with the insults,” he added.
“Very very immature response,” a Facebook user, Afolabi Adebayo, said of the incident.
“It only goes a long way to show the type of people most of our so-called leaders are – highly intolerant and vindictive.”
Anthony Ezejiugoh said to Mr Fani-Kayode via the social media site that the reporter’s question was not insulting or disrespectful. “It’s in the best interest of the nation’s transparency, as we have been engulfed by corrupt leaders/politicians since independence,” he said.
“FFK, your inability to control your anger at this point tells a lot,” another Facebook user, Mike Moo, said. “No matter how upset you were, you would have calmed the situation by restructuring the question for the journalist.”
One Nigerian said on Facebook that if the Daily Trust reporter’s intention was really to upset Mr Fani-Kayode with the question, then he (the journalist) “won”.
“You will have more moments like this in days to come,” he said, as advice to the former minister. “You may need to prepare your mind in advance and decide to be in control of your emotions so that you can take charge of situations.”
‘I have no apologies’
But Mr Fani-Kayode (@realFFK) on Tuesday took to Twitter to defend his action against the reporter. He said the journalist made an assertion against him, “instead of asking a question”.
He claimed the reporter said to him, “Well, we do not know who is bankrolling you”.
The former minister said that was not a question but an assertion and an insult.
“If this insulting assertion were (was) made before (Donald) Trump or OBJ (Olusegun Obasanjo), I know how they would have reacted,” he said. “I have no apology to offer for it.”
Mr Fani-Kayode said the Daily Trust reporter apologised to him during and after the press briefing and that he has accepted the apology and has moved on.
“I have always had respect for journalists & always will. Those of them that know me or worked with or for me over the last 30 years can attest to that. However, there is a distinction between asking a question & offering an insult.
“This is all the more so when it is clear that the assertion was sponsored and engineered by my political enemies who wanted to use the young man to insult and embarrass me and question my integrity.
“Well, they got more than they bargained for,” the former minister said.